Ex-Murder Suspect Found Dead

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), March 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Ex-Murder Suspect Found Dead


Byline: By Brenda Hickman

A man convicted then cleared of murdering a boy of 15 has been found dead hanging from a tree.

Stephen Johnson was jailed for life for the murder of 15-year-old Kevin Spowart in Tesco's car park, Kingston Park, Newcastle, in 1990.

But his conviction was quashed five years later by Appeal Court judges and he was released.

Today Kevin's parents said Mr Johnston's death closed a chapter on their tormented lives.

Maureen and David Spowart say they are not vengeful people, but admit it was hard for them to suppress their relief when news of Stephen Johnson's death was broken to them.

Today Kevin's family feel a weight has been lifted off them and only now has justice been done.

Businesswoman Maureen, 55, of Colnbrook Close, Kingston Park, said: "We were told he had been found dead, hanging from a tree, near his home.

"This gives us closure on a nightmare which haunted the whole family.

"Not only did we have to go through two trials to see what we thought was justice for Kevin's murder, but we were ripped apart when the man jailed for life was allowed to walk free on a so-called miscarriage of justice.

"There's not a day goes by that we don't think about Kevin and the waste of such a caring lad's life."

It was said during Mr Johnson's 1992 trial at Newcastle Crown Court that gentle teenager Kevin was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was kicked and battered to death by his glue-crazed killer.

The fun-loving lad was on his way home from relatives when he was attacked. It was thought he was targeted because his killer mistook him for someone else.

Kevin, a pupil at Kenton Comprehensive school, suffered severe head injuries and an imprint of a training shoe was even left on his face.

He was found unconscious by two youths walking their dogs in August 1990. He died three days later.

Mr Johnson, then 24, of Etal Lane, Newbiggin Hall estate, Westerhope, was convicted after a second trial for Kevin's murder.

On Tuesday the father-of-three was found hanged almost a decade after his conviction was quashed.

Mr Johnson, 36, had not told his neighbours in Tow Law, County Durham, about his past since moving there two years ago with his partner, Hayley Goodfellow, his teenage stepdaughter and the couple's sons aged four and three.

BBC's Rough Justice programme had highlighted discrepancies in evidence given against Mr Johnson at his trial in March 1992. …

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